After 40 years of zero contact I was contacted by a school friend on Facebook. We exchanged what were in effect short CVs of our lives: where we had been, what we had been doing, and who we had been doing it all with.
I tried to explain about the church, describing to someone outside of church-world what Pentecostal meant. I fell back on the description as ‘so-called happy-clappy’.
Well how would you describe our life together? Informal, friendly, open to the life of God, Gospel-centred?
It raises the question, what does it actually mean to be a Pentecostal?
To get to grips with it, you can look at what Pentecostal churches around the world look like, or you can have a look at what it meant in the beginning of the movement, which would lead you to a different challenge.
Most people would agree that the first Pentecostal church was in a renovated warehouse on Azusa Street in Los Angeles in 1906. It was led by William Seymour, a black, partially sighted preacher at a time when to be black and poor in the States was to be on the receiving end of accepted racial abuse. So when the church began to grow as a mixed-race church, with white visitors from all over the world willing to listen to people who were at the bottom of the social ladder, it suggested a completely different church. One of the early pictures shows some of those early Pentecostals:
Male, female, white, black, old, young. What they had in common was an experience of the Spirit and, as one journalist would write after visiting a service, they knew that ‘the colour bar (the racial laws) had been washed away in Jesus’ blood’. The Spirit had created a community that shocked genteel society but demonstrated something of the Kingdom of God.
Did it last? In truth, not long. Petty arguments, church politics, doctrinal differences and racism all pulled apart what had happened. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that it did happen.
So when we talk about who we are, maybe we shouldn’t talk about size, or perceived liveliness, or even friendliness, but should say that we were formed as communities that knew that their life together could be radically different.
It’s why Luke’s picture of the earliest sets of believers in Acts 2:42-47 is so significant. A group who were willing to sacrifice time, treasure and talents for one another in radical acts of generosity. They shared what they had, they met daily, they were devoted to one another and, unsurprisingly, they grew. Well they would, wouldn’t they?
Did it last like this?
In truth, not long. People tried to take advantage of one another, they disagreed and fell out with one another, they found it easier to follow racial lines.
But does it matter that they had experienced something different at their birth?
It’s who we were meant to be, it’s the shape of communities that have experienced the life of God. And in these days of separation, confusion and struggle, it matters more than ever. We will spend a little more time looking at this passage on Sunday together. Meanwhile, pray that we will be all that the Spirit would want to shape us as over these next years.
If you’re intrigued in reading more about these early days of Pentecostalism, you might be interested in reading this.
If you would rather know about early British Pentecostalism you could watch this (around 1:03 you might recognize one of the contributors).
This week’s interview is with Anne Albinson. Enjoy listening to the remarkable decisions she has taken in her life.
1. Our Gatherings
The link to this Sunday’s Gathering is here:
Meeting ID: 836 810 848
A chance to reflect on life and scripture together. We are using this resource at the moment. We are in the second week.
Thursdays at 7.45pm is the time to log on.
Meeting ID: 998 857 193
During these strange days, we want to stay growing as church. You might have friends and family who might be interested in staying in touch with us as a church. Ask them to fill out the form on our church website and we will add them to our mailing list.
This may be an easy time to invite friends and family to our Gatherings, after all they can be with us from the safety of their own homes. You have nothing to lose, they have a lot to gain!
2. Prayer Together
For some time we have sensed that as a church we don’t pray enough together. This was also reinforced in the feedback we received during Neil’s ‘Listening Exercise’ earlier in the year.
Prayer really is part of our ‘core business’ as disciples of Jesus; it’s the life-blood of our relationship with God and one of the primary means by which God speaks to us, challenges us, encourages us and changes us. The current global pandemic has caused many of us to pray more than we did before. It has also accelerated some of the changes we were going to make as a leadership. As a result, we hope that some of things we put in place now will continue after the crisis is over; one of them is to pray more together.
Tuesday evenings 8-9pm starting on Tuesday 19 May and then fortnightly onwards.
From the comfort of your own home!
The link to each meeting is here:
Meeting ID: 823 8530 6337
And the link will be on our church’s events calendar.
We do hope you will join us to pray during this unprecedented time in history.
3. You’re not alone
If you need prayer, or need to talk, don’t hesitate to contact folks in your WhatsApp group, or Neil – his number is 07771 558058.
4. Hardship fund
We set aside some of church’s money so that we can respond to needs that we become aware of in church. You might want to give to that fund, if so, let Bev Walsh know, or you might be in need yourself. If you would need help, don’t be embarrassed to talk with Charlie Blundell. We want to help.
Links and Resources
1. Elim Leadership Summit
This is happening online on 12-13 May. You can hear about it and get the links here.
If you want to hear more about Neil’s research he will be ‘live’ at 2pm on Wednesday – but I guess it will be made available afterwards.
2. To watch
The last two months have changed things for many of us. I know some of you life got busier and more complicated. For other, it was less busy and the danger is that we lost a sense of purpose. For either group this might be worth a watch:
John Mark Comer wrote a really readable book, The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry. In this interview, John Mark talks about family life, slowing down, finding rhythms of life that help us and our families connect with God, and the importance of Sabbath. It seems fitting for the season that we find ourselves in.
3. Children’s Resources
Morag and Ian have put together a couple of films for children at different ages. Having said that, whatever your age you might want to take a look!
But if you have children that fall into these groups, I know that they will really value your feedback, so please do leave a comment on the page.